The Biyo of China
China is a land of great diversity in geography, climate, languages, and ethnic groups. It is home to approximately 180 distinct groups, including the 105,800 Biyo who live in Yunnan Province of southern China. They are generally included with the Hani—one of China's 55 national minorities. Although the exact origin of the Hani and their sub-groups is not known, legends say that their nomadic ancestors gradually migrated south from a far away northern plain. Since their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group, some believe that they originated in Tibet.
The Hani live in an area that is characterized by forested mountains, abundant rainfall, and rich soil. Their farmers are noted for building tiered terraces along steep mountain slopes.
Centuries of isolation in the high mountain terrain have left the Hani socially and economically backward. Ten dialects of their native language, Hani, are spoken among them; however, they had no written language until 1949.
What Are Their Lives Like
The family unit is considered to be very important among the Biyo. Some aspects of family life, however, differ from region to region. For instance, monogamy (one husband, one wife) is the rule in some areas, while polygamy (having multiple spouses) is practiced in others. "Family order" is both patriarchal (male dominated) and patrilineal. This means that a male child becomes part of the father's lineage, while a female will become part of her husband's lineage. Also, male children are given names that are connected with their father's name, but females are not.
The Biyo are well known for their sincere hospitality. When a guest enters a Biyo home, he is offered wine and strong tea. If he declines the drinks, the family will be highly offended; if he drinks them, the host will generously serve him with the finest he has to offer.
The Biyo celebrate several major festivals each year, the most notable being the New Year festival. This seven day event is celebrated at harvest time, during the tenth month. At noon on New Year's Day, an announcer throws three balls of blackened rice behind him to bid farewell to the old year. He then greets the new year by tossing three balls of white rice in front of him. Next, he pushes the ropes of a special swing and all of the people, regardless of sex or age, begin swinging. (They believe that this will ward off disaster and ensure a prosperous year.) That evening, the villagers stand around a bonfire eating, drinking, singing, and dancing. At midnight, the announcer cuts down the frame of the swing to signify the ending of the festival and the beginning of a new work year.
During times of celebration, the Biyo wear attractive tribal costumes of hand-woven cotton dyed blue or black. The men wear distinctive jackets and turbans, while the women wear collarless blouses and special caps.
What Are Their Belief?
Traditionally, Biyo beliefs were a combination of animism (belief that non-living objects have spirits), polytheism (belief in many gods), and ancestor worship (praying to the deceased for blessings and guidance). Trees in the "holy hills" were believed to be their guardian spirits. Today, they still adhere to similar beliefs. They are very superstitious and view certain events, such as the birth of twins or handicapped children, as unlucky. These children are killed, their parents banished, and their homes and possessions are burned. They believe in the existence of many ruling spirits, such as spirits that rule over heaven and earth, spirits that protect their villages, and evil spirits that bring diseases. The Biyo have three major religious leaders. The zuima is a male from the oldest household who directs all religious activities. The beima are males who perform magic and exorcisms. Male and female nima are in charge of making predictions and administering medicinal herbs.
What Are Their Needs?
Since China's government strictly forbids Christianity, there are currently no missions agencies working among the Biyo. The Bible has not yet been translated into their language, and there are no Christian broadcasts in their area. Intercession and missions activity are necessary to reach these people with the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities that are keeping the Biyo bound.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Biyo through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will give the Biyo believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Biyo language.
- Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Biyo Christians.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Biyo language.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Biyo by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Biyo
- Country: China
- Their language: Biyo
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 2%
- Church members: 2,117
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 25,400 (24%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 80,400 (76%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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